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April 20, 2004 / Bill Thompson

CM Punk vs. Masato Tanaka from WORLD-1’s Revisited Tour 2004

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Thoughts from Bill Thompson:

This match is for Masato Tanaka’s Pro Wrestling World-1 Heavyweight Championship.

There’s plenty to love about this match, and it falls just short of being great. I was all ready to label the match great and then one specific sequence happened, and the match ended short of the ten minute mark. I know the latter isn’t going to be a sticking point for most people, but it is for me. I can love a match that is under ten minutes, my unabashed love of Owen Hart versus Ken Shamrock from World Wrestling Federation Fully Loaded ’98 is proof of that. But, throughout the years I have cultivated the belief that a match needs to be over ten minutes in order to be truly great. May be an odd criteria to some, but it’s my criteria and I’m sticking with the program!

The specific sequence I’m mentioning is one where CM Punk is hit with a Brainbuster and proceeds to pop right up and hit a Shining Wizard. Perhaps those who enjoy Fighting Spirit spots won’t have an issue with this sequence. I don’t mind Fighting Spirit spots, but context is king in this case. That spot did not fit with the match that came before or after. The match being presented by Tanaka and Punk wasn’t working towards a Fighting Spirit spot and didn’t need said spot. Taking that into account Punk popping up and hitting a Shining Wizard sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise well put together match.

The rest of the match is a delight to take in. Punk spends the majority of the match on offense. He works over Tanaka’s left arm with glee, and in a fashion that I found most interesting. The usual arm based attacks like a Cross Armbreaker and a Standing Armbar are applied. But Punk augments the basic with the intelligently simple. He goes after Tanaka’s arm with a Hammerlock Backbreaker, a Short Hammerlock Clothesline [Editor’s Note: It’s called the Pepsi Twist, m8!], and even a Dropkick square to Tanaka’s damaged arm. None of those attacks are super complicated, in fact they are as simple as can be. They are also very intelligent and applied in such a way that they add variety to the match while also moving forward the work on Tanaka’s arm. Maybe I need to see more Punk, but such inventiveness is not something I’ve come to expect from my fellow Chicagoan.

Tanaka more than does his part by playing the sympathetic babyface to a T. He times his comebacks perfectly and he has the sort of offense that makes for believable comeback spurts. Moves like the Diamond Dust and an Avalanche Diamond Cutter are high impact, look great, and work with the arm injury Tanaka is selling. I bought that a beaten down Tanaka hitting those moves could get a flash two count from any one of them. Most of the selling Tanaka does is through facial expression and yelling. He sells the damage he’s dealing with through the visible pain on his face every time he moves and the way he has to yell to get himself psyched up to move beyond the pain.

At a shade under ten minutes Tanaka versus Punk is a nifty sprint. I’ll readily admit I have a soft spot in my pro wrestling heart for Masato Tanaka. He does a lot of things that bother me in other wrestlers, yet I love those same things when he’s doing them. Still, this is not a match where that qualifier matters. Against Punk, Tanaka wrestles a more straight forward match devoid of his own Fighting Spirit spots. This match won’t set anyone’s world on fire, but for those who are looking for a solid ten minutes of pro wrestling, look no further.

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

 

Thoughts from TJ Hawke:

I dug this match. They didn’t go overboard with anything in the ring, but I was never bored. Punk had a simple strategy of going after the left arm. The commentators pointed out that he was foolish for not going after the right arm. Tanaka used his right arm to finish Punk with a roaring elbow. The matchup itself also just benefits from the randomness of it.

If the match seemed random, it was nothing compared to Matt Striker coming out after the match to challenge Tanaka. How bizarre, how bizarre…

Match Rating: ***

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